CCTV Test: Vista Quantum NVR

An increasing number of manufacturers are designing network-based devices or systems that offer simple and fast set-up when used as part of a ‘one-brand’ solution. In truth, this isn’t a major leap forwards; if you specify a single provider for a complete solution you’d expect all of the devices to interoperate with ease. However, that’s not always the case! One manufacturer to offer such a solution is Vista, with the Quantum NVR.

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or many years, the security sector shied away from single brand solutions. If an installer or integrator had to be tied in to products from a sole manufacturer in order to realise certain benefits from a system, they traditionally voted with their feet.

There are some very good reasons why single-brand tie-ins aren’t always the best choice when designing solutions. Firstly, it does create a degree of reliance upon one company that many feel is unhealthy in a competitive and vibrant market-place.

Secondly, it can remove the possibility of enhancing a solution with new technologies and features as they emerge. If you have a one brand package and the manufacturer you’ve chosen doesn’t swiftly implement something that the end user demands, you could find yourself with an unhappy customer through no fault of your own.

Finally, many engineers who have worked with video surveillance for many years remember the days when certain telemetry protocols were used as something of a stick to drive the specification of certain brands. It’s a  situation few want to return to. That said, there can be circumstances when the benefits offered do actually present a good case for selecting a single brand solution.

In recent years, the single-brand option has started to emerge as a common choice when it comes to networked video. For those seeking hardware-based solutions, such systems do away with any issues regarding compatibility and interoperability. If the cameras and NVR emanate from the same manufacturer, then they should work together without any issues. Whilst this isn’t always the case, many have got it right and the results can eradicate wasted time on site. Auto-discovery, self-configuration and ease of remote communications are all benefits that are offered.

Of course, most manufacturers will argue that their offerings aren’t truly ‘one brand’ because they support ONVIF. For many installers and integrators, relying on ONVIF compatibility is still something of a lottery, because many manufacturers implement the specification in different ways.

With a growing number of such options on the market, Vista now offers the Quantum NVR, which claims ease of installation when used with the brand’s VK2 cameras.

Specification
The Vista Quantum NVR is described as an NVR that operates like a DVR. Indeed, the manufacturer has taken steps to try and replicate the look and the feel of its Quantum DVR. Simplicity of installation and operation have been the goals during its design. A key feature is the auto-discovery and IP address assignment to connected cameras from Vista’s VK2 range, and connectivity with the VKBD4 joystick. It is also compatible with ONVIF Profile S.

The Vista Quantum NVR is a 16 channel unit, and is available with different storage capacities, up to a maximum of 12TB. Recording options are HD1080p, HD720p and D1. Maximum record rates are 160ips for HD1080p, 320ips for HD720p and 640ips for D1 streams.

The frame rates and resolutions of both display and recording streams are individually set at the cameras. If recorded HD compliant streams are required, this cannot be achieved across all inputs because of the frame rate limitations, but with a mix-and-match approach a number of streams meeting the standards can be implemented.
Video inputs are via a LAN port; a second is used for remote PC connectivity. Video output is either HDMI or VGA.

Other connectivity includes 16 alarm inputs with one relay output, a network port for NAS connectivity and an eSATA connection for external drives, USB ports, RS232, and connectivity for the compatible keyboard and serial  telemetry. This is also an audio output. The NVR also includes a DVD rewriter for the creation of WORM media.

Operation can be carried out via the front panel, or a mouse can be used, which is included. An infrared remote control is also supplied as standard. Now, we accept that a few people will love nothing more than a front fascia control option, but given the ease of using a mouse, we can’t see the appeal. Still, if you want it, it’s there! If you don’t you have other options.

The unit is also supplied with quick installation and operation guides, plus full documentation on a CD. The guides are brief, and whilst they could be better they’re certainly sufficient for the job.

The NVR is also bundled with software which allows it (and other compatible NVRs) to be centrally controlled, along with Quantum DVRs. This will be a benefit for those who are currently transitioning from analogue to a fully digital solution, or who are seeking a hybrid approach.

Configuration
One of the main selling points for the Vista Quantum NVR is the ease of configuration when used with the VK2 range of cameras. The system offers auto-discovery and IP address allocation.

The initial NVR install is pretty straightforward. Connect the monitor, connect a switch supporting the cameras, add any alarm inputs, keyboard or telemetry devices and power up.

Manufacturers tend to treat auto-discovery in different ways. Increasingly, the units will automatically find any attached cameras and make basic configurations, before allowing the installer to finalise settings, adjust anything specific to the system, and finalise the process.
The Quantum NVR doesn’t automate the process. You need to go into the menus and instigate the discovery routine. Our test unit found all of the attached cameras immediately. It is then necessary to assign the IP addresses. This can be done automatically or manually. The next task is to identify each camera for its channel number. Once this is done, streams can be specified for recording and live viewing (you can use the same stream for both if you wish) and you’re ready to start.

It has to be said the configuration element of the installation is very simple. Oddly, we did spend a few minutes trying to remember the logical process that many DVRs follow. If you’ve been working predominantly with NVRs you might need to take a step back; if you’re moving up from DVRs you’ll be immediately at home.

Whilst the process is certainly a positive, there is one slight negative. Any changes to video stream settings have to be made at the cameras. Whilst this is understandable with third party devices using ONVIF, it also applies to Vista’s own cameras.

Okay, it’s a very small niggle, but who knows; maybe they’ll address it!

Performance
Once up and running, the Vista Quantum NVR does just what you expect from it. Image quality is good, albeit decided by the camera settings. That said, the display quality was as expected, and the recording quality was also of a good standard. There was certainly no obvious signs of artefacting on playback, and as such it does preserve the video quality, colour fidelity and motion of the streamed video.

Searching playback is relatively basic, but has enough options to make it satisfactory. You can search by time and date, event or bookmark. There is also a timeline feature if you’re seeking associated footage.

Event handling gives options for email delivery when alarms occur. Up to six addresses can be specified, and emails are sent for alarm, motion detection, video loss, power loss or SMART events. For alarms, motion detection and video loss, individual recipients can be specified not only for each type of event, but also for individual camera channels. With power loss and SMART events, individuals can be specified.

SMART events include read/write errors and temperature issues relating the NVR’s HDDs.

A level of motion detection can be set at the NVR, but in truth this is very basic. There are a number of predefined masks (whole screen, half screens in both portrait and landscape aspects, and quarter screens including a centralised option).

You do get a higher level of control using the supplied remote viewing client. This allows the creation of draggable boxes. One word of note: don’t try to physically adjust the boxes. It took us a few minutes to work it out, but if you simply left-click and drag the mouse diagonally from corner to corner of the area you wish to cover, the detection box is drawn!

The motion detection is typical for an integral feature of an NVR. It has a sensitvity adjustment, but you don’t get the ability to configure it for anything other than basic use.

The remote client is very easy to install. First, in the Network menu, select PC connectivity and enter a relevant address. Then, once the client is installed, simply log into the address and you have remote control, including the option of view, search and replay.

Verdict
Most people who look at using the Vista Quantum NVR will be either moving up from analogue solutions, or will have existing legacy equipment which they want to integrate with new HD devices. That said, as a mainstream NVR it is capable for most applications.

It is very unashamedly aimed at those who’ll also use VK2 cameras (yes, it has got ONVIF compatibility, but the simplicity is a big selling point). However, if that is what you want, you’ll not be disappointed.

A few improvements could be made, but it’s more of a wish-list really. Real-time recording at HD resolutions across all channels would be most welcomed, as would configuration control over attached VK2 cameras. However, despite this, the Vista Quantum NVR is certainly Recommended.

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